So, I'm still watching The Practice, and a case just came up where the toddler son of a Christian Scientist family died from some kind of infection because they refused medical treatment. Apparently it was some fairly common infection that could have easily been dealt with. They were both tried with second degree murder and convicted.
Now to be fair, I logic-ed myself out of Catholicism years ago, I'm not religious, and I don't know much about Christian Science other than that it's not super mainstream and tends to be regarded as being just as ridiculous as Scientology. Basically a fringe religion. But, I still don't think they should have been convicted.
The prosecution argued that the case wasn't about religion, but about parenting, and that reasonable parents would have sought treatment for a child who was dying. Which... I agree. I think it's stupid that people willingly refusal medical treatment for life-threatening diseases on religious grounds. I'm of the view that science is the tool that God gave us to help us understand move through the world he created (yes, I believe in God still) and that we are meant to use it to better ourselves and our lives. Basically, I think God gave us science so we wouldn't have to bug him with prayer every time we needed something.
However, I also believe that people are allowed to believe whatever stupidity they want to in the name of religion, as long as they don't try to force it on others.
"But NinjaCate! Aren't they forcing their religion on their child, who then died because of it?" you ask.
I say, no. Most countries, but especially the United States, believe in freedom of religion. It's right there in your constitution, no? I'm not aware if there is a legal definition of religion that applies (which might sway my opinion tbh) but for the most part, you get to interact with whatever God you want, however you want to, and you are allowed to make decisions in your life based on what you believe that God requires adherents to do.
That doesn't get suspended when you become a parent, especially since most religions have at least something to say about parenting and reproduction. With the exception of maybe China, laws don't put restrictions on who is allowed to parent, or who is allowed to reproduce (heterosexually I mean, of course). When religious people have kids, they are more often than not, making that decision within the context of what their religion says about starting a family. To me, that means that their religious beliefs extend to their children. That means that if they are actively practicing their faith, it can be expected that they will raise their children in a way that is consistent with the beliefs of that religion, including medical care.
"But think of the children NinjaCate!" you say.
To that I say, sure. But children are effectively their parents wards, and we give them legal power to make decisions like this for them according to what they think is in their best interest. If a religious person has raised a child within the context of a religion that forbids medical treatment, then it is foreseeable that should the child become ill, they will refuse medical treatment. But knowing that doesn't give us the authority to then substitute that person's religious judgement for our own. And again, knowing this, we don't then prevent those people from having kids.
Religious freedom means religious freedom. It doesn't mean religious freedom for the religions that we don't think are too crazy. Catholics don't allow abortions, which are perfectly legal medical procedures (though I guess not for long...) and we don't force women to abort even if it's in her best medical interest. Jehovah's Witnesses don't allow transfusions and we don't force them to take blood even if that may be the most effective solution. (Yes, I'm aware that JW's have had kids taken away for refusing treatment. It's happened in Trinidad too). But the point is, we are aware that these religions have these beliefs, and we are aware of the conflicts those beliefs may raise, and we allows adherents to those beliefs to procreate anyway.
Some religions even require spouses to convert (Judaism) and others require that any children be brought up in that faith if the marriage is across religions (Catholicism). It is common knowledge and understanding that children of a religious union can be considered to be adherents of that faith, and as such, medical and legal decisions should come from that standpoint.
I think religion as a whole is pretty dumb, but even that belief is tantamount to religious freedom. I genuinely feel that if a parent has a good faith belief that they are doing what is best for their child, then they shouldn't be prosecuted for doing so. We don't prevent anti-vaxxers from having kids (though I wish we could) even though that belief foreseeable puts others at risk and even though I'm 90% sure having 19 kids and counting isn't in the best interest of any of the individual kids, we allow that to happen too.
Do I think those people should have let their kid get medicine? Hell fucking yes. But I also think that religious freedom is absolute*, and we don't get to breach it just because we don't like where it takes us. The only barrier freedom of religion should come up against is freedom from religion, which prevent us from trying to make other people follow our personal/religious views. (Let them have their stem cells Pope-y). I also think that freedom from a parent's religion doesn't apply to kids who are not just raised, but conceived in a religious context.
I dunno. Hard questions/debate. But with this fictional couple, they didn't just do nothing. They prayed with their church, and the kid periodically got better. Obviously not science, but the point is, they did exactly what their religion told them was the best possible thing to do. I don't think they should be punished for that.
[*Except in cases of (child) abuse, obviously and any other clearly illegal things like rape, murder etc. Pretty sure God doesn't give you a pass on that anyway.]